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Making Work Pay for Public Housing Residents: Learning from the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

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Residents of the nation's public housing developments have long suffered disproportionately from perverse disincentives to work. Under traditional public housing policies, their rents were automatically ratcheted up in lock step with any income increase they realized from earnings, even in a low-wage job. Work often promised them little financial gain. But a series of reforms over the past decade - in welfare and tax policies, as well as in housing policies - have tipped the financial balance more in favor of work, perhaps to a degree that is not fully appreciated by many public housing residents and administrators. Still, some important disincentives remain.

This policy brief, one in a continuing series that presents emerging insights from the Jobs-Plus demonstration, discusses innovative attempts to bring public housing rent policies more fully into line with reforms in welfare and tax policies designed to "make work pay."